The Word Guy / Knowledge

Telling Some Tattle Tales

Pssssst. Have you heard the latest about the origins of "gossip," "scuttlebutt" and "canard"? The histories of these rumor-related words are really quite dishy...

Don't mention this to anyone, but "gossip" comes directly from God. The Old ...

The Briticisms Are Coming!

Do you wish the phrase "go missing" would go missing? Do you cringe whenever someone says "spot on" or refers to a redhead as a "ginger"?

No worries, love. You've been "Limey-ed": covered with the smarmy goo of British expressions, spellings ...

Do You Want Capitals with That?

Q. Is it "French fries" or "french fries"? Is it "Swiss cheese" or "swiss cheese"? I have seen them both ways. My wife is Swiss! -- William Nicholson via email

A. Why do I get the feeling that, in your household, there's a lot riding on my ...

Errors Inflict 'Mind Game' Headaches

Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play "The Rivals," replaced familiar terms with similar-sounding words and phrases, often with hilarious results. Can you find 35 malapropisms in this character profile?

My eccentric uncle, Mal A...

Telling Some 'Folk' Tales

Q. During a recent plane trip, the chief flight attendant repeatedly referred to us passengers as "folks." There was not a single "ladies and gentlemen." But how appropriate is "folks" to begin with? I was taught that "folk" is already plural (...

'Who' or 'Whom'? Heed the Verb

Q: This headline appeared over a newspaper story about anonymous kidney donations: "For whomever needs it most." Is "whomever" correct because it is the object of the preposition "for"? Or should it be "whoever," the subject of "whoever needs it...